DeFazio's earthquake early warning system bill passes U.S. House

FILE -- U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

Federal lawmakers took a step forward Monday in preparing the Pacific Northwest for a catastrophic earthquake.

The U.S. House passed a bill introduced by Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio that instructs the federal government to identify funding and develop a plan for an early warning system for the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a huge fault that runs along the coast from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, California. Scientists say the fault has generated major earthquakes in the past and someday it will create at least a magnitude nine quake that will have devastating effects for the Pacific Northwest.

“We have known about the threat posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone for decades, and yet we have failed to prepare and protect our coastline from a catastrophic earthquake,” said DeFazio. “My legislation is simple—it forces the federal government to get serious and install a critical system that could save thousands of lives, countless injuries, and billions of dollars of damage.”

DeFazio pointed to Japan’s early warning system that helped to alert people when the deadly earthquake shook that country in 2011.

While that system gave people time to get out of buildings and shut down high-speed trains, it wasn’t able to predict the height of the tsunami, DeFazio said, and more than 15,000 people still lost their lives. But he added the Japanese are deploying a real-time deep-ocean system.

“If we had in place a deep-ocean system near the southern end of (the Cascadia Subduction Zone) where they expect a major quake to start, it would give enough warning time for people on the coast of Oregon … to seek higher ground.”

He also said it would give people a little more time in Portland and Seattle to prepare for the shaking.

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